tea with Anushka

tea with Anushka

I was summoned to tea with Anushka

she is a dedicated collector of culture,
haunting antique bookshops
‘liberating’ volumes of art,
music, poetry, philosophy,
to sit gathering dust
in her private library

discreet vans turn up from time to time
her treasures are labelled, documented,
and packed for return to whence they came

Anushka has shelves to fill… again.
so she heads off to a town
where she’s not known
browsing for first editions, curios,
ottomans, and ‘opulents’

a weathered sign, ‘The Hermitage’
fixed to the railing of her dwelling
declares a Romanov ancestry

I play along with her untruths
and take vodka – good stuff –

her maisonette was typically grubby,
Anushka moaned, she’d sacked the cleaner
and did I like her bust of Caesar
sparkling on the new vitrine?

oh and by the way,
would I do her a favour
and pop to Spar for milk, sugar,
bread, petit fours, and pâté,
and put it on her slate?

I cleared her tab… again

we drank Darjeeling from bone-china cups
we spread shrimp pâté on Mother’s Pride 
with sterling-silver butter knives,
and nibbled Kipling’s off a lazy susan
‘une cigarette peut- etre?’

she lit her next-to-last Sobranie
with a flame from a gilt torchère

in the flickering candle glow,
she evoked, for me,
Rublov’s Icon of the Trinity

through the blinds Anushka glimpsed
a plain black van cruising, stopping,

she gulped and blanched
real tears flooded through the bars
of ‘Nushka’s ‘natural look’ lashes

I reached across to brush away
the beads of resignation
trickling her cheeks

© coolhermit 2023
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This is a work of art not to be hidden away on the dusty bookshelves of “collectors”.

Extremely well done.


I like the analogy of “conquering a piece”.

In mountaineering we plan on the best route to the top; establish a base camp and then the thrill of playing with rock and earth, the rising, the detours, thought always on the summit, never on the chasm opening up beneath – in fact that never colours the climb – and then the planting, the joining.

Again, a great piece.


I seem to recall reading this on UKA sometime ago. It’s too long ago to see how the re-write has improved it, but it’s still made me chuckle at her cheeky obsession.

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